A Cancelled Lockdown Date Taught Me to Revalue My Time

Ioana Andrei

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“I’m not really feeling the vibe. Maybe we should get to know each other a bit more before meeting up.”

My first thought:

“Oh my goodness I’m going to die alone I am unlikeable everyone hates me and my landlady won’t even let me have a cat.”

My second thought:

“I don’t have to shave my armpits.”

My third:

“I can do whatever I want with the rest of my day!”

The gentleman with the opening line is not the protagonist.

I am.

He is, however, the last in a (way too) long list of men who were not worthy of my attention.

I may not have known this at the time — and therein lies the plot.

The story begins 4 years ago.

Exhibit 1

Giving someone my time means subjecting myself to their reality.

I was seeing a guy I liked. “Seeing” in the ophthalmological sense, because he wasn’t ready for a relationship yet. Let’s call him F.

So, I was seeing his face and his body across from mine, whilst knowing that my desire for emotional intimacy would be starved to naught.

I was 22. Vaguely aware of the concept of feminism — enough to identify with it. But you don’t get lemonade just by looking at a lemon. For me, my optimum level of vitamin C came after many, many squeezes.

F would say things like,

“It’s ok for women to be stay-at-home parents, but not for men.”

“Lesbians I can live with, but I don’t like gay men.”

“Can you shave your, uh, you know?”

We danced our casual dance back and forth, took breaks, and made up.

Over the course of a year and a half, I had grown.

I had heard Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie declare why We Should All Be Feminists.

I had let go of a close friend who shamed me for not sleeping with him.

I had learned through acting that my choices, onstage and off, were painfully attached to a sense of unworthiness.

A fear of abandonment prompted me to indulge people and values I did not connect to — and reinforced my insecurity when, eventually, I got disparaged.

F was not at a stage where he could understand the subtle and not-so-subtle inequalities between men and women, even at the granular level of an intimate relationship.

When faced with the notion that it is an imbalance to expect oral sex with no desire to reciprocate, he remarked,

“Huh! Never thought of it that way.”

Another time, a not-so-accidental accident pushed me to take an intrauterine contraceptive measure — one of the most painful procedures of my life. His sympathy amounted to,

“I didn’t make you do it, and anyway, it’s better than having a baby.”

(I set aside the implicit negation of a third option, to hold on to what was left of my sanity.)

I kept returning to him, with diminishing emotional investment. Until a fateful night, one late November, when my gut said,

“That’s it, honey. That’s enough.”

I may have become less generous with my expectations, but I had nevertheless been giving him my time.

And giving someone my time means subjecting myself to their reality.

Exhibit 2

I don’t expect a significant other to have my style of activism, or hold the exact same opinions. But I expect them to be pro-fucking-choice.

I fell in love. Let’s call him C. C had a lot of my time. And I gave it lavishly, like a Dutch florist during tulipmania.

I decided giving him my time wasn’t enough. I raised the bet.

Take my heart, my trust, my desire. All in, she said, her pulse throbbing.

C was a good guy. The guy you want to end up with. Which automatically put a great many things in the “we’ll work it out” category.

Begging me to stay at his apartment without actually asking me to move in. Which allowed him to shoo me away when his parents or ex-girlfriends came to visit.

Not being pro-choice.

Not agreeing that survivors of rape should be believed.

Not accepting me unconditionally as I was recovering from an injury. Whilst making it clear that he was not finding joy in this relationship anymore.

Sucking me back into his life whenever I wanted time away for myself.

I finally broke it off when he got upset that I added more spinach to a salad. (Don’t be too harsh on him. He put so much love into it!)

C was smart. In a traditional sense. However, as a friend pointed out, if he wouldn’t put in the work to understand my values, we couldn’t last.

I guess it takes a different kind of smarts to realize that a person who creates a women’s leadership program, works on sexual harassment reports, and speaks openly about being assaulted, is —

Surprise, surprise, a feminist.

Look, I don’t expect a significant other to have my style of activism, or hold the exact same opinions. But I expect them to be pro-fucking-choice.

Exhibit 3

I told him, though in reality I was trying to convince myself, that my time was valuable.

After C, came lockdown. After lockdown, came dating apps. During dating apps, B said hello.

With B, the expectation was that I would speak, he would ask further questions and interject with an innuendo where appropriate.

This suited me well enough, so we set up a date.

Which was canceled by B one hour after the start of what, in fact, had not been a date, but a speculative invitation, and anyway,

“We hadn’t fixed anything?
My lunch break can be anytime depending on how busy it gets.
And these days genuinely were crazy busy.
Only just taking a little breather now.”

I told him, though, in reality, I was trying to convince myself, that my time was valuable.

If he wanted to meet me, he’d have one more shot, no more.

Here’s what happens when I give my time to someone.

They can be a nobody or a somebody — I give my complete presence to that person*.

If I get to know someone, I will bring my full arsenal of favorite 90s cartoons, adolescent traumas, impossible dreams, and last week’s therapy.

In return, I expect them to be woke as f-ck. That’s pretty much it.

*90% of the time

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Image courtesy of the author

B was not very woke. B had never gone to see a play.

B used a “think I’ve seen you on a train” line to start a chat.

B thought that the best response to my first (and only) voice message was,

“Oh wow you would sound great as Google assistant or siri or something”

B did not understand why imagining a woman in the role of an assistant was offensive. B requested that I explain the concepts of male allyship and female oppression.

I offered to discuss in person. He offered to cancel the date.

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Ok = We will definitely not be meeting in person. Image courtesy of the author

The Choice

We have 43 million minutes to live a life. Every split second presents us with a choice.

I’ve never learned anything valuable without being thrown into the deep end.

Which is why I think most women are absolutely badass. We get our socks wet pretty much every day.

Growing into my womanhood means not looking for the one, but knowing what the one looks like. I have non-negotiable values. I want a dynamic that helps me ground and grow. Feminism. Anti-racism. Emotional intelligence. Power balance.

I don’t have time to soothe the ego of a man threatened by a confident woman. I have 43 million minutes to live a life. Every split second presents me with a choice.

I am now conscious that many of my minutes have been absorbed by people I manifested through my fears, insecurities, and low self-esteem.

I want those minutes to get fewer and farther apart until I can look at the past 10 years of my life and see a journey paved with unity, love, and integrity.

I had a fourth afterthought:

“He didn’t share my core values. I wish I’d canceled the date before he did.”

If I had, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Aware. Patient. Enough.

Whether or not we go on dates, or marriages, or flings, is not the issue. Particularly if you’re a woman, you will have felt the outside pressure to attach yourself to a man.

We weren’t told to love ourselves. We were told to be loved by others. (Disney, I’m looking at you.)

The rest of my life, and yours, depends on this specific question.

What does it mean to you to treat your time with love?

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